A Simple Lifesaver

With more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer being diagnosed each year, scheduling an appointment for a professional oral cancer exam is a smart decision. As a silently progressive disease with few early symptoms, oral cancer is easily overlooked until it has reached advanced stages. As a result, more than 7000 lives are lost to oral cancer each year – many of which could have been saved with early diagnosis and effective treatment.

Malignant squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly occurring form of oral cancer, and typically begins in the mouth and lips. However, oral cancer can also occur in the throat, face, gums, tongue, and salivary glands. Unfortunately, without a professional examination, the signs of this disease can be difficult to recognize.

A Thorough and Professional Oral Cancer Exam

The examination for oral cancer will be thorough but also painless. To begin, Dr. Tomlin will check the face, neck, and glands for unusual bumps or lumps. Next, she will perform a visual inspection of the front and sides of the tongue, and the floor of the mouth for red patches and unhealed sores. Bleeding or slow-healing sores can indicate cancerous changes. Leukoplakia, a raised lesion that appears to be greyish-white inside the mouth, may also be cancerous.

Soreness, lumps under the skin, or any thickening tissue found in the mouth or throat can also signal an early pathologic change.

Taking the Next Step

If any suspicious lesions, sores or lumps are detected, Dr. Tomlin will consult with you to discuss the appropriate course of action. This might include a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis, surgical removal of a lesion, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

You may receive professional advice for preventing oral cancer, since more than 75% of oral cancer cases are linked to avoidable lifestyle behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use. Making healthy choices can reduce your risk for oral cancer significantly, but you should also remember that as many as 1 out of every 4 oral cancer victims has no known risk factors. That’s why we urge all adults to schedule a professional oral cancer examination each year – even if you believe your risk to be minimal.

Are you ready to make a lifesaving decision today? Contact us to schedule your appointment.

Common Questions

A periodontist checks for oral cancer by performing a physical examination of the entire oral cavity – specifically soft oral tissues like the linings of cheeks and lips along with the tongue. Many times, suspicious tissue that could be cancerous looks discolored and lesions can feel bumpy and lumpy.

Intraoral cameras and lighting can also be used to examine tissue as thoroughly as possible. If patients have certain risk factors for oral cancer such as a family medical history, a history of smoking and alcohol consumption, or HPV, it is incredibly important to have annual oral cancer screenings.

There is no way for a patient to be certain he or she has oral cancer unless a cancer screening and biopsy have been taken. While a person can detect changes in the way oral tissue looks and feels, it is impossible to know for sure unless diagnosed by a professional. Despite a professional diagnosis being needed, patients are advised to keep an eye on the color and sensation of oral tissue by performing self-checks at home. This can be done in good, direct lighting with a handheld mirror.

Testing for oral cancer begins with a professional oral cancer screening. This entails answering questions about one’s medical history and lifestyle habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption along with a physical examination from a dental professional. If a suspicious lesion or discoloration is detected, a biopsy will be ordered. A biopsy is a minor surgical procedure that removes a part of suspicious tissue so that it can be analyzed in a lab. The process of analyzing tissue is called pathology and trained medical professionals will monitor the cellular activity of biopsied tissue for malignancies. If malignancies are found, patients will need to pursue treatment with an oral surgeon or oncologist.

Some oral cancers do form at the back of the mouth near the throat, in which case a periodontist might detect suspicious lesions. Not all throat cancers develop at the back of the mouth, however.